Musical Word of the Day – take two

Ok, so the first attempt sat today’s post went slightly awry. Oops.
Round two!

The musical word of the day today is a word which has been going round and round in my head for the last week or so.

I seemingly get word obsessions, as well as musical ones – rolling the same words around in my head for days on end, revelling in how they feel on the tongue, the sound of particular syllables, fat, juicy vowel sounds, crisp and pointy , soft and whispering consonants, pondering on their perhaps apparent or more hidden meanings….. Anyway, I’m rattling on and I’ve not even told you the word of the day yet.

Well, it’s canticle (pronounced kant-ee-kel).

So what is a canticle then I hear you say? Well perhaps you don’t say, but I’m going to tell you anyway.
According to the dictionary definition it is a Christian liturgical song set to a Bible hymn other than a psalm. The word originates in a Middle English and come from the Latin cantare (to sing) and canticum (song). In modern concert works it can be used to describe a work set to religious text, or even any other text if it takes your fancy – Britten apparently wrote a number of canticles set to poems.

Anyway that’s the dry as Bob’s dog biscuits definition.


(S’boring, says Bob)

My definition, or I suppose description more appropriately, is a glorious wash of sound, sending tingles down the spine and sending the brain spinning back in time to a chilly, dusty, echoey, cold grey stone church of the Middle Ages. Soaring, yet sensitive soprano voices singing in Latin these beautiful and unmistakably medieval melodies, sometimes unaccompanied, sometimes with a simple harp or fiddle drone in the background. Simple. Beautiful. Perfect.

Have a listen for yourself:

(ok, this example might be strictly described as an antiphon, but gives you a good idea of the canticle style)


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